Language is a fundamental part of who we are, it invades the daily life of each of us.

Our ideas and thoughts are defined and expressed through language. The way in which we build relationships, both personal and professional, depends on way we use language.

Our working environment and corporate culture are strongly affected by the words, images and gestures that are currently used in daily life.

Contents and information are shared through language.

And yet so often language is relegated to the status of irrelevance, the kind of thing it's not worth wasting time over, because it’s “someone else’s problem”, or because “there are more important things to be getting on with”.

Why is there such resistance to thinking about the language we use? Why, if they’re “just words”, is it so hard to discuss them and change how we use them when we need to do so?

To answer some of these questions, the Mediobanca Group started by launching a quantitative listening exercise, led by the Catholic University of Milan, to investigate the roots and content of the resistance and reluctance to use inclusive language among the corporate population.

This has now led to a book entitled “"WORDS – What does it mean to speak inclusively?", consisting of seven chapters, each conceived to provide concrete and practical answers to the doubts, queries, perplexities and resistances highlighted by the research.

After an introduction outlining the results of the analysis performed by the Milan Catholic University, the first chapter describes how the Italian language has been changing from the outset, to record, and also to support, some of the changes in progress in the current social situation. The second chapter focuses on gendered language, with reference in particular to female educational and corporate titles, and to the overextended use of the masculine gender. The third chapter deals with the phenomenon of ageism, i.e. discrimination based on age, and how pervasive it is in the words we use. The fourth chapter, meanwhile, discusses heteronormative versus LGBTQ+ language. In the fifth chapter, we try to bring some clarity around some of the words used to refer to disabilities and the underlying ableism (discrimination against people with disabilities). The sixth chapter seeks to reinforce the message of the five previous ones by means of a series of practical exercises. The book closes with a final chapter containing some advice on how to maintain positive habits and/or deal with any mistakes without panicking.

The book has been edited by Alexa Pantanella, who is an expert in inclusive and accessible languages, with contributions from a series of experts:

  • Stefania Cavagnoli, lecturer in foreign language teaching and applied linguistics at the “Tor Vergata” University in Rome
  • Andrea De Benedetti, teacher, linguistician, writer and translator
  • Francesco Ferreri, cultural anthropologist and educator
  • Lorenzo Gasparrini, feminist philosopher and educator
  • Giulia Lamarca, psychologist, corporate educator and content creator
  • Alessandro Lucchini, linguistician and founder of Palestra della Scrittura
  • Claudia Manzi, full professor of social psychology at the Catholic University of Milan

WORDS – Win Over Radicated Diversity Stereotypes – is the Mediobanca Group project to promote increased awareness of the power of language as a tool to promote inclusiveness and respect for the uniqueness of each individual.

WORDS is a podcast, a monthly column in the Responsible Value magazine, and now, as of today, a book too.

All our content on the subject of languages is available on Mediobanca's Instagram page.

WORDS is part of the Mediobanca Group's broader scope of DEI activities.